Bascio, Monica

Written by Jo Ann M. Colton on .


Monica Bascio, paralympic medalist, World Champion athlete

(1969 - )

Many people come to realize that life is often more about the journey rather than the destination. As such, we are never sure where life’s road might lead us, a fact to which wife and mother Monica Bascio can attest. While the life journey of this unpretentious young Evergreen woman has seen many twists, turns, and detours, her strength and perseverance have not only enabled her to overcome many obstacles, but also achieve great successes.

Monica Bascio was part of the 2014 U.S. Paralympic Team and participated in three events in Sochi, Russia. She placed 7th in the women's long-distance (10-kilometer) cross-country sit-skiing competition. Her competitive sports career began in 2000 when she was named Wheelchair Athlete of the Year. Over the years she has become a World Champion athlete and Paralympic winner of multiple gold and silver medals.

Born in New York, Monica grew up in New Jersey. The youngest of eight children, she enjoyed playing a variety of sports. Upon graduating from high school she moved to Santa Cruz, California where she continued her love of sports and even added snow skiing to her list of favorite things to do.

But the course of Monica’s life was forever altered when in 1992 she and some friends went skiing in Lake Tahoe and she failed to navigate a small jump. The accident injured her 12th thoracic vertebra severing her spinal cord and resulting in complete paralysis from the waist down.

After her inpatient rehabilitation at East Orange, New Jersey’s Kessler Medical Center, Bascio travelled back to Santa Cruz. Although confined to a wheelchair, her upbeat personality and positive attitude enabled her to relearn how to perform daily activities and move on with her life. One of the new goals she set, which had not been on her list prior to her accident, was to obtain a degree in Occupational Therapy from San Jose State University.

In 1997, during the time she was preparing for her final exam to obtain her Occupational Therapy Certification, Bascio’s then boyfriend (now her husband), began researching options that would allow her to exercise outdoors with him and also enable her to get in shape. Ian Lawless, a former bike racer, eventually bought her a handcycle, similar to a bicycle, but powered by one’s arms rather than one’s legs. He believed this vehicle, relatively new at the time, would prove to be a perfect way for Monica to train regularly and improve her fitness and health.

In 1998, the inaugural Handcycling National Championship was held as part of an existing USA Cycling race in Duluth, Minnesota. Bascio took part in the events and finished 2nd in both the time trial and road race events.

Bascio, always up for a challenge, was inspired to develop herself into a racing cyclist. Over the next five years, she became the number one ranked handcyclist in the world winning more than 30 races, including a world time trial title in 2002, multiple U.S. national titles, and the toughest race on earth: The 267-mile Sadler’s Alaska Challenge, which she won five times (2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006).

Bascio relocated to Colorado in 2002 due to her husband’s new job. Although she was aware that handcycling would make its first appearance at the 2004 Paralympics in Greece she faced disappointment to learn there would be no race for women at that event. So, upon moving to Evergreen, Monica readjusted her competitive focus and began cross country skiing (sit skiing), continuing to handcycle only as cross-training for skiing. With her sports background and proven endurance, Bascio was a natural. She won a silver medal at her first international event in Quebec in 2003, and made the U.S. National Team for the 2004 season. She was the best placed American sit skier at the 2006 Paralympic Games in Torino, Italy where she finished 5th in the 10k, and also finished 4th in the Sprint biathlon.

After taking off half of the 2007-2008 season to give birth to her son, Henry, she resumed her career and won a Silver Medal in the Paralympic 5-kilometer Test Event: Whistler Olympic Park (2009) and came in 2nd Overall in the 2009 IPC World Cup of Skiing. Other wins include Overall Winner, UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup (2011); World Champion, UCI WH3 Para-cycling Time Trial (2011); World Champion, UCI WH3; Para-cycling Road Race (2011); 2 World Cup Gold Medals in Segovia, Spain (2011), 2 World Cup Gold Medals in Quebec (2011); and, 2 Silver Medals in the London Paralympic Games (2012).

Today, Bascio, a champion in every sense of the word, still manages to adeptly juggle all aspects of her life. “I maintain my daily routines and do all the things that everyone else must do,” she said, “which I feel is the normalizing part of disability.” In addition to being a wife, mother, and world champion athlete, Monica Bascio continues to work as an occupational therapist at Life Care Center Evergreen where she interacts with patients and helps them to lead more independent lives.

Sources: Interview with Monica Bascio; website of Monica Bascio. Click here for a complete listing of her sporting accomplishments.